Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Do Donkeys Eat Lutefisk?

May 7

Starved for contact with my friends and family after days without phone service or internet access, I charged out of Osceola with the quickness of a hare rather than my usual tortoise pace.  I made Stromsburg by ten. The library did not open until one of course.
With the next likely library forty miles distant I decided to wait things out in the doughnut shop.  There I met owners Pat and Lee and learned something about the town.
Stromsburg is known as the Swede Capital of Nebraska.  The town was settled originally by a Swede from the region of Stromsburg,  thus the name.  The language has all but disappeared (Lee recalled his grandfather still spoke some) but the culture has remained via the cuisine.  Swedish meatballs, lutefisk, and a bread pudding I can't possibly even begin to spell correctly are all served at the annual Midsommer Festival.  Both professed not to much care for lutefisk, which is soaked in lye to preserve the fish and then drained of the lye slowly so as not to poison the consumer.  What remains is a gelatin-textured mass only loosely recognizable as fish.  Yummy!
Examples of Swedish architecture and language still persist in Stromsburg
While I ate a bunza, Pat's clever way of not getting sued by the Runza company, the couple told me about another hiker who had come through the years or so ago.  He was walking, but using a donkey to carry his gear and he wore sandals instead of hiking or tennis shoes.  At first I was jealous of his light load, but then I pondered the logistical implications of using a beast of burden.  Did he have to avoid big cities?  I can't imagine rolling through Omaha with a farm animal.  What does the donkey eat?  Where can he sleep at night?  The towns I visit probably wouldn't want donkey crap all over their nice clean parks.
By then the library was open and I said my goodbyes.  Typing a few days worth of journals took some time as I am barely past the hunt and peck method in my keyboarding skills.  Leaving Stromsburg at three, I would be hard-pressed to make Polk by nightfall.  Fortunately, my afterburners were in fine form and I jetted along, arriving just as the sun begin to peak over the western horizon.  I was even able to get enough bars on my phone to speak with my brother for a while.  For a moment the loneliness of the road melted away.

19 miles/ 1972 total miles

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